While most of our New Year’s resolutions went out the window by mid-February, we’ve kept our biggest priority in check - finding the best new restaurants in San Francisco. We’ve eaten everything in sight, taken notes, and shed a few tears from that time we stubbed a toe getting out of a car. Now that the tears are dry, we’re ready to present our list of San Francisco’s Best New Restaurants Of 2019.
Short of time travel or a clairvoyant owl with an Etch A Sketch, there was no way to predict what would make the list this year. There’s a wagyu restaurant grilling some of the best steaks we’ve ever had, a Japanese spot with intricate kaiseki dishes you’ll eat in blissful silence, and an affordable Mediterranean place with dips you’ll want to come back for once a week. No matter which you check out, you’ll have some new suggestions to drop into conversation when you bump into friends, strangers, and your know-it-all neighbor.
There are some experiences that stick with you long after they’re over - a trip to Niku Steakhouse is one of them. Aside from serving A5 wagyu beef, this place in the Design District cooks it over a special charcoal grill in the middle of the dining room that gives it a charred flavor you’ll wish could follow you around for a few days after. The first bite rewires your brain and completely changes what it means to eat great steak. But even if you skip the special $125 cuts of wagyu, everything else is incredible - from the rich bone marrow topped with oxtail to the New York strip that deserves to be on Oprah’s Favorite Things and the chocolate brownie for dessert that uses wagyu fat instead of butter.
Christopher Walken can act, sing, and dance, and the GE Trivection Oven can cook a whole turkey in 22 minutes, no problem. But even they have a hard time living up to the triple threat that is Flour + Water Pizzeria - it’s affordable, the food is fantastic, and there’s never a long wait. The people behind Flour + Water make excellent pizzas with crusts that are both crispy and chewy, and interesting toppings like corn and speck. But the homemade mozzarella sticks are in a class of their own, and the caesar salad and ricotta meatballs are each the best versions you’ll find anywhere.
The Shota might be the quietest restaurant in SF. That’s because when you eat at this 15-course, $180 Japanese tasting menu spot, the only thing you’ll be able to think about is how good the food is - and in the process, forget to talk. The menu here is a mix of traditional kaiseki and omakase sushi, and you get everything from intricate profiterole sandwiches with uni pate and the most perfect raw scallop nigiri, to handrolls with fatty tuna that melts in your mouth almost instantly. When you finally remember that you can speak, your first word will probably be “wow,” and your first full conversation will probably be about how you need to find an excuse to come back.
Che Fico was one of the Best New Restaurants Of 2018. So when they opened another place directly below it, we had unrealistically high expectations. But lucky for everyone, this small, low-key spot surpasses them all. Their perfect cacio e pepe, fresh focaccia, and housemade charcuterie make every dinner here feel a little special. And while we’ll still head upstairs for a birthday or anniversary, Che Fico Alimentari has the everyday appeal we wish more restaurants in this city had.
Whoever came up with the rule about not playing with your food clearly never talked to the people at Palette Tea House in Ghirardelli Square. They make dim sum that’s as creative and fun to eat as it is delicious, all while giving us a whole new reason to brave the tourists in San Francisco’s chocolate center. The lobster dumplings with pipettes of butter to inject into each piece are tender and juicy. Their taro puffs are shaped like swans, and the multicolored soup dumplings are perfect and never leak. Even in a city with so many great dim sum places, Palette Tea House stands above the rest.
Beit Rima is one of the rare cool restaurants in San Francisco that non-tech moguls can afford to eat at every day. This Middle Eastern spot feels like it could’ve been a beatnik hangout in a former life with fez hats everywhere and a picture of the Mona Lisa in a burqa on the wall. Everything from the hummus to the whole fried branzino is fantastic, and it all hovers between $10 and $20. Coming to dinner at this always-packed place also feels like a full night out, even if you plan on leaving and going straight home after.
Like many places that opened in SF this year, Verjus has a lot of open space and tall, white walls. But instead of blending in with the rest, Verjus stands out - big time. It has a bottle list nearly a mile-long of mostly natural wines, and a great menu of Spanish and French small plates like pate en croute and pork croquettes that keep us coming back here as often as possible. The only way this place could be cooler is if Lenny Kravitz and Jane Fonda showed up and started playing ping-pong on one of the communal tables. Even though that’s probably never going to happen, we still drop into this place all the time, even just to grab a few bottles to go so we can have something to drink at home.